Writing in L.A.

Hello friends! Dan Harmon, one of the founders of the awesome Channel101, screenwriter on the brilliant Monster House, co-creator of the Sarah Silverman Program and just all-around awesome dude, recently revealed what it’s like to write for Dreamworks Animation.

Excerpt from the original post on the Channel101 forums:

My hats off to anyone that can write a Dreamworks Animation film. They have a unique process.

First they storyboard the entire film. That is the first step. Not kidding. No writers, no script, just a story, and an entire film drawn on pieces of paper.

Then Katzenberg watches an animatic of the boards and says, surprisingly, “this needs a lot of work. You have a month.”

Then they hire their first writer. And spend that month changing as much of the storyboards as they can, which is about 20 to 30 percent.

If the 30 percent change isn’t the right kind of change, people get fired. Maybe the director, maybe the writer, maybe both.

Sometimes, only the writer gets fired and an additional director is hired to help out. It all depends on who is better – at pointing a finger with one hand while covering their own ass with the other.

4 thoughts on “Writing in L.A.”

  1. Not to be knock Dan Harmon, who is a great writer, but what is the point of him telling us this? Does he expect anyone to be shocked, or even remotely surprised by the fact that Dreamworks isn’t an artists first, altruistic organization?

    I suppose it might make Mr. Harmon feel better to vent and I wouldn’t deny him that right but as Hyman Roth said to Michael Corleone in The Godfather II: “This is the business we’ve chosen”.

  2. You don’t have to be “artists first” to realize that Dreamworks Animation’s process is fucking retarded, even from a bottom-line business standpoint.

  3. I have never worked for Dreamworks Animation, but I have worked for other cmpanies and projects where the writing seems to be secondary. It depends wholeheartedly on the role of the Storyboard Artists. Some shows have Storyboard Artists work straight from scripts where they don’t have much creative leeway, they just draw what they’re given.

    However, there are other shows where the Storyboard Artist has just as much, if not more, creative input than the writer. Of course, in the wrong hands, this is a complete and total disaster. In the right hands with a truly gifted Storyboard Artist it makes the process truly sublime, and they deserve credit as such.

    Again, I have not worked for Dreamworks Animation, although I’ve had plenty of similar nightmare scenarios in my writing career.

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